In celebration of International Women’s day, it is only rightful and timely that we recognize the milestones women have achieved in the sport of football.
Despite the stereotypical notion in sports, which prefers men over women as the more superior athletes, this did not hinder women to pursue their passion for the beautiful game. The bias towards men in the field of sports may have hovered over the development of women’s football since time immemorial. But at this point, it is becoming more apparent that female footballers are becoming more empowered as exhibited by a numerical augment in league participation domestically and internationally.
In a report published by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) entitled Women’s Football Across National Associations for the 2014-2015 season, it has been noted that the number of registered female players across Europe has grown to 1,208,558. An increase by 46,000 players from 2013-2014 and by 5% from its record in 1985 and accounts for 0.3% of the continent’s aggregate population with six countries hosting at least 60,000 female players (Norway, England, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, and Germany).
Catering to the continuously growing population of women’s football in Europe, the report likewise noted that 51 countries currently have a league established exclusively for them. On the other hand, the report added, there are 54 other countries that have their own national team, which competes in friendly matches and international competitions sanctioned by FIFA.
Outside of being a player, women still showed dynamic involvement in the development of the game. The same report stated that there are 21,164 qualified coaches and 7,461 referees. In the league’s office, 30% of its employees are women with 19% of them occupying managerial positions.
From a global perspective, the numbers representing the progress women’s football has made over the past two decades are even more impressive.
According to FIFA’s Women’s Football Development portfolio, there are 29 million women and girls all around the world that plays football up from 22 million players recorded in 2000, and comprising 12% of all youth players. 134 teams have been given a ranking by the governing body. The number of participating teams went up from 45 in 1991 to 428; the number matches simultaneously increased from 110 to 398 in 2015.
In the 2015 World Cup, there were 24 teams who participated in the tournament, up from 12 in 1991 during the inaugural version of the tournament.
As the recent developments yield to rising popularity, the coverage of women’s football matches have suddenly bloomed. In Europe, UEFA reported that 75% of the member countries render coverage to women’s football matches with 11 countries offering it on a regular basis. The larger portion of the exposure is allotted to the national team.
But there would never be another better indicator of women’s football’s surging prominence than the 2015 World Cup in Canada. The tournament garnered its highest amount of audience for its Round-of-16 stage with match between the host nation and Switzerland watched by 2.6 million viewers.
The match between China and Cameroon earned an average audience of 5 million, exceeding the coverage for a round-of-16 match up during the previous edition. The finals match between US and Japan was the most-watched football match in the US, with 25.4 million viewers.
In its totality, the 2015 Women’s world cup was the most watched version of the tournament, with a record-shattering 750 million viewers. Becoming the second most-watched sports event, next only to the Men’s world cup.
It is becoming gradually apparent that women with god-given kinesthetic prowess are enabling great developments in sports that are usually dominated by men. Women’s football has come a long way from obscurity. It is now enjoying a kind of exposure only male athletes in the sport once exclusively enjoyed. With the consistent guidance and the steady and effective implementation of development programs by FIFA and other football organizations, the sky is the limit for women’s football.